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Former Miami Commissioner Arthur E. Teele Jr. — politically humiliated and facing two indictments with more to come — walked into the lobby of The Herald building Wednesday evening and shot himself in the head. He died less than two hours later at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Wearing a dark blue suit, a light-blue shirt and a crimson tie, Teele walked one block from the Plaza Venetia to The Herald at 5:56 p.m. carrying a green canvas bag. He shook the security guard’s hand and asked him to relay a message to Herald columnist Jim DeFede.
Felix Nazco, 35, the security guard, said Teele told him: “Tell my wife that I love her.”
Teele then pulled a Sig Sauer pistol from the bag, put the gun to his head and watched the street through the lobby’s glass doors. As police arrived, he pulled the trigger, security guard Eduardo Pavon said. Teele fell on his back. The pistol clattered across the terrazzo floor.
During a 15-year political career, Teele became one of Miami-Dade’s most influential politicians, serving on both the Miami City Commission and the County Commission. But his life ended in a cascade of arrests and humiliating disclosures that reached a crescendo in recent weeks.
Two weeks ago, Teele was indicted on 26 federal charges of fraud and money laundering — his third arrest in a year. On Tuesday, a probation officer filed papers seeking to revoke his probation from an earlier conviction and send Teele to jail.
Wednesday brought the latest embarrassment: The New Times weekly published an excruciatingly detailed, 14-page spread describing Teele’s alleged sordid relationships with crooked contractors, drug dealers and — what bothered Teele the most — a transvestite prostitute. The front-page headline: Tales of Teele: Sleaze Stories.
In addition, Teele was buckling under chronic debts and legal bills; a neighbor said Teele recently asked him for a $200,000 loan. And Teele knew that state prosecutors were planning to file additional corruption charges against him, perhaps in the next few weeks.
(Posted on July 28, 2005)